Lalit Modi’s talent at making up surprises

It may be difficult to believe now, but the BCCI—the Board of Control for Cricket in India—once resided in a disorganized two-bedroom apartment. The postman who ascended the dark, dirty stairs leading to the file-filled chambers with peeling walls was not pleased with its South Mumbai address, despite the fact that many who corresponded with it may have been.

They were quiet and traditional, which is typical of those cunning old money types. Lalit Modi then entered the picture. He acquired the International Management Group (IMG) and the Indian Premier League (IPL), and eventually, more unsettling acronyms like ED and CBI would appear. However, let’s not jump forward in this tale of how cricket struggled with fame and fortune.

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When he announced on Twitter late on Thursday that he and former Miss Universe 1994 Sushmita Sen would be starting a “fresh beginning,” Lalit Modi demonstrated his propensity for pulling off unexpected events. The post also included the derogatory hashtag “better half.” He would quickly add a twist to his trending tweet. “Just to be clear. Just dating each other, not wed. That will also occur one day,” was intended to be a snappy retort. There is never a boring moment when Modi is in charge.

Early Modi’s tenure at the BCCI was a fascinating period. The veterans despised him. He was regarded as a newcomer. His Twenty20 endeavor bred suspicion. MBAs dressed in Armani were gradually replacing the former maiden cricketers who had become administrators and dressed in safari suits.

In Modi’s project, the first season of the IPL, the World Cup veterans from 1987 and 1996—the elderly administrators who had greased palms, requested numerous government permissions, and worked on a shoestring budget from nooks and crannies to successfully host cricket’s biggest tournament—were viewed as outcasts. They pouted in silence. They disparaged Modi when they spoke. The IPL, however, brought in big money, so the rumors would soon fade down. The television agreement was valued $1 billion, and franchise teams were sold for $725 million.

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The BCCI was now located in the Cricket Centre, a large structure near to the Wankhede Stadium not far from its previous humble home. Bentleys, Mercedes, and Rolls Royces were parked there when IPL stakeholders met with Modi at the new headquarters.

The team owners had expectations, both new and old. They would casually ask whether the stadium had a helipad while requesting passes for their famous friends and parking passes for their VIP buddies. To witness the Rajasthan Royals win IPL 1, many would fly in from SoBo and be dropped off by air at the training facility at the D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.

A corporate takeover now posed a danger to Cricket’s long-standing political takeover, which looked unflappably secure for all of eternity and beyond. Nothing was left undisturbed by change, including power equations, regulations, culture, and even the BCCI constitution. Thanks to the Twenty20 format, cricket was moving at a breakneck pace.

On the pitch, the game’s aesthetics were compromised. Due diligence and institutional ethics were foreign concepts in the BCCI’s hallways. There was no time to reflect. It was finally time to start making fast millions almost every day. Even Modi-baiters took advantage of the new benefits. At the end of business-class travel, they got luxurious offices and a revised trip allowance/dearness allowance. At that point, everyone covered their mouths and, unfortunately for cricket, their eyes as well.

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The dreadful child The BCCI’s blue-eyed boy was now Modi. His homework or pocket money weren’t checked. Maybe his connections prevented him from being interrogated. The BCCI, a notoriously frugal spender, has transformed into a filthy rich waster. It was like one huge, raucous party. Modi opened the door to his family and friends.

Since everyone in the group was a member, they were not stopped at the entrance. Naturally, after the BCCI had collectively deleted those crucial three words — conflict of interest — old pro N. Srinivasan helped himself to one franchise. Everyone was now a part of the incestuous network and connected to one another. Any transgression might be covered up by speaking with an uncle, father, or father-in-law or by calling them on the phone. The Rajasthan Royals franchise is still a part of the IPL for this reason as well, despite the controversy surrounding its players and owners. Even though the Chennai Super Kings had an insider in the dugout, the team was not suspended. The rules remain harsh, but the administrators are not impartial.

According to BCCI insiders, Modi’s chapter came to an end because he became overconfident and stepped on too many toes. Some claim that he was outwitted by Srinivasan, his mentor, who was a more ambitious and skilled vote organizer, as well as the waning influence of Sharad Pawar.

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Few people talk about his financial transgressions. This is true despite the fact that a disciplinary committee found Modi guilty of bid-rigging, extortion, signing a phoney television contract, and favouring his stepson-in-law in a business deal involving the internet.

Now take into account the fact that Modi carried out all of this while being seen by a prominent governing council and the management of the BCCI. Not to mention that the ruling council included some of the nation’s greatest lawyers, legislators, and sports legends. While Modi was making millions, nobody noticed anything was odd.

There was no doubt that the checks and balances were either absent or ineffective. Even the Supreme Court later constituted a committee to recommend structural changes and proposed election reforms for the BCCI at the conclusion of the IPL corruption case hearing.

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The IPL continues to be cricket’s most lucrative brand despite the controversies. Many people still saw Modi as Moses, including the BCCI-employed commentator Ravi Shastri. The flamboyant cricket administrator, who was based in London, frequently accepted invitations to give talks at colleges and business schools.

The former IPL commissioner once mentioned how much he enjoyed spending his days away from cricket watching elite European football matches from VIP boxes as a guest during a casual discussion with us media on the tour of England.

Over the years, he has posted on social media about himself in picturesque resorts, infinity pools, and in the company of the wealthy and well-known. Still, it surprised me to see him in the same photo as a beauty queen.

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